We expect it from a child.  From little ones with lacerations and dog bites, broken bones and IV placements.  ‘Daddy please!  I want to go home!  Can we go home now?’  We’ve seen it untold times in our medical lives.  And there the daddies stand, holding the hands of their precious sons and daughters.  They may be tough as iron, but they tear up as they see the pain and fear in their children’s eyes.  I’ve seen some get angry, and threaten me, or threaten to scoop up their little prince or princess and run out the door, even as they knew it would be the wrong thing.

But yesterday, as I placed the local anesthesia in her gray-covered scalp, and as I placed the staples that would close her wound, my 93-year-old patient cried out, in the mist of her dementia, ‘daddy don’t let them hurt me!  Daddy, help me!’  And then, ‘grand-daddy, help!  Grand-daddy don’t let them!’

I did the math.  Her daddy was probably born around 1880 or so.  Her grand-daddy around the 1850’s.  Their faces were etched into her mind.  She might not remember yesterday, but she remembered the men whose arms held and sheltered her when she was a child.  And there, on that hospital bed, in the bright lights of the year 2008, when the world would have been almost unrecognizable to her father, or to her grandfather, she lay calling to them down the long ages.

I believe they were watching.  I believe they wanted to come to her.  I believe that they are getting ready for the reunion glorious, when she will slip away from all of us and our pity, our staples, our needles and x-rays, our cruel back-boards and ridiculous ambulance rides.   I imagine the transformation as she finds herself young and strong, her flowered dress familiar, and she runs up the hill to where they are standing.

‘Daddy!  Grand-daddy!  Pick me up!  I’ve missed you so!  You look so young!’

‘So do you, princess, so do you.  Let’s go for a walk.  There’s a lot to catch up on, and lots to show you here in glory.’

I imagine her hand drifting unconsciously to the left side of her scalp, behind her ear, feeling for a scar she remembered.  She cannot find it.  She reaches up again to be held.  And all memories of pain, all memories of loss and separation and misery are lost in the gently receding past.

Only joy remains for a little girl and her daddy and grand-daddy, who have missed each other so very much.


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